The move will deepen ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel after two countries agree to normalize relations.
Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, announced on Monday that it would start daily non-stop flights to Tel Aviv early next year. This deepens ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel after the two countries agreed to normalize relations.
Direct flights on Etihad between the Emirates’ capital, Abu Dhabi, and Tel Aviv will begin on March 28, offering “Emirates and UAE residents the opportunity to discover Israel’s historic sites, beaches, restaurants and nightlife,” one reads State airline statement. Tickets are already available on the Etihad website.
The announcement came after Dubai’s low-cost airline flydubai announced that it would offer direct flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv from the end of this month.
The United Arab Emirates and Israel signed a US-brokered agreement in September to establish formal diplomatic relations on the White House lawn.
The deal was a diplomatic success for US President Donald Trump prior to his re-election, and reflects a changing Middle East in which Iran’s common hostility has largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.
Soon after the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan agreed to formalize relations with Israel in similar agreements.
Bahrain’s foreign minister will lead the country’s first official trip to Israel on Wednesday, the state-run Bahrain news agency reported.
The high-level diplomatic visit is intended to “reaffirm Bahrain’s firm and lasting stance in support of the Middle East peace process” and “shed light on common economic opportunities,” the agency said.
The US State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be in Israel on a Middle East tour in the coming days.
The normalization agreement, rejected by the Palestinians as a betrayal of their cause, has been welcomed by Israelis who are visiting the skyscraper-strewn cities of the UAE and wanting to publicize their long-secret business relationships with the Federation of Seven Sheikhs.
In the past few weeks a number of Israeli delegations, including businesspeople, tourists and even Israeli settlers from the occupied West Bank, have flown to Dubai to meet with businessmen and officials from the Emirates.
The air route became commercially viable after Saudi Arabia decided to allow Israeli jets to cross their skies, reducing the flight time between countries to around three hours.
Mohammad al-Bulooki, Chief Operating Officer of the Etihad Aviation Group, praised the start of scheduled flights as a “historic moment” that opens up opportunities for “trade and tourism not only between the two countries, but also within the region and beyond”.
Etihad said the start of regular service with Israel would make Abu Dhabi a major travel hub for Israelis traveling to China, India and Australia.